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New England port services victim of fish limits

Jeff Wilcox says he will have to close his marine supply company after four generations.
Jeff Wilcox says he will have to close his marine supply company after four generations.Tim cook/The Day via AP

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As fishermen are sidelined, taking their boats out of service for lack of work, New England’s marine industry that repairs, stores, and cleans boats is next in line to feel the hit.

Jeff Wilcox is shutting his 135-year-old family marine supply business in Stonington, Conn., a casualty in the battle over federal fishing limits. Wilcox, owner of Wilcox Marine Supply, blames the federal government and the fishing limits it’s imposed. In Stonington, he said, the number of draggers — fishermen who drag nets behind their boats —has dropped since the mid-1990s from 50 to two. His business, which employed 13 people in the early 1990s, has dwindled to just himself.

‘‘It’s put almost all the fisheries out of business and now it’s trickled down to me,’’ he said.

Many southern New England fishing communities face a similar problem. Richard Fuka, president of the Rhode Island Fishermen’s Alliance, warns that if the fleet continues to be diminished, ‘‘Rhode Islanders could see a local heritage industry slip away and become a museum piece.’’

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